Article 30 june 1966


Sergeant Major
MI.Net Member
Mar 20, 2004
After a non-stop flight [17hrs.] from Travis AFB, California, to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, on the outskirts of Saigon, Vietnam, we finally touch down. It's been real quiet on the plane for the last 20min. or so, as everyone's been looking out of the windows ever since land came into view, each with their own expectations and fears. When we finally come to a stop out on the tarmac and start to descend the stairs from the air conditioned plane, the heat hits me in the face like I'm standing too close to a forest fire. Jaysus! Can I endure a year of this? We're taken in through the terminal [no air conditioning], pick up our duffle bags from baggage, and put on buses on the streetside. The first thing I notice about the bus is that the windows have wire mesh on them. The driver tells someone that asked that this is to keep someone on a motorbike from tossing a grenade or satchel charge through them. I wonder if this was learned the hard way. I'm guessing "Yes."

We're headed for the 90th Replacement Bn. in Bien Hoa. As we go through the populated areas, the first thing I'm impressed with is the congestion of people [I later learn that all of the towns and cities are choked with refugees from the countryside fleeing the war], the visible poverty, and the bustle and chatter of the place. Next is the stench. It's a mix of dirt and dust, rotting vegetation, sewage, burning wood or charcoal, stagnant water, and cooking smells of some exotic foods that I can only imagine.

When we get to the 90th, we're processed in and issued bedding and directed to a barracks and cot. Since we're all still wearing the khaki uniforms that we flew over in, we're told to change into fatigues. That's fine with me, since mine has been saturated with sweat since 10min. after we landed. We meet some of the guys that are already bunked in the barracks. Some of them have been there for several days, with stories of guard duty and **** burning details. We just kind of hang out until we're told to fall out for the first of several formations that we have to make that day. At each formation some guys have their names called. They fall out, never to be seen again. I make it through the rest of the day without my name being called, or being assigned to any details.

I had volunteered to come to the war, so there was a sense of excitement and adventure. I was 19yrs. old. There was also a small sense of fear of the unknown, especially once on the ground. With that first blast of hot air on my face, and the wire mesh on the bus windows, I started to wonder about the decision to come here. As I started seeing armed people, gun jeeps, etc., that first day, the reality began to sink in. As I had the free time to think about things, my mind would wander; will I make it through my tour; was my training good enough to keep me alive? The worst fear that I had though, wasn't the fear of dying. When you're a 19yr. old paratrooper, you think you're bulletproof. No, it wasn't of dying, was the fear of possibly finding out that I'm a coward. Or worse, being a coward and getting someone killed because of it. Letting my buddies down. This, COMBAT, was going to be the litmus test of all that I've been taught, and all that I had been built up to believe of myself. "Do you think you can cut it?" I asked myself. "I believe I can," I answered.

The next morning, in the first formation of the day, my name is called. I'm told to turn in my bedding, get my duffle bag, and fall in at a designated area. We're told that we've been assigned to a unit and handed our records and orders. I read mine and see that I'm going to the 101st Airborne Division. COOL! I'm going to be a Screaming Eagle. A few guys that I know from AIT and Jump School are also going there. It's comforting to know somebody. Some of the other Airborne guys are going to the 173rd or 1st Cav.. We're bussed back to Tan Son Nhut. We're put on various C-130s or choppers, depending on where we're going. The next stop for me is Phan Rang, the main basecamp for the 101st Airborne Division.

Let Tom's Big Adventure Begin!

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